ATHENS, Aug 7 (Reuters) – Flames swept through a town near Athens overnight and hundreds of people were evacuated by ferry from the island of Evia east of the capital as wildfires burned across Greece for a fifth day on Saturday.
The fire on Mount Parnitha on the outskirts of Athens has forced the evacuation of thousands of people since late Thursday, with emergency crews facing winds and high temperatures as they battled to contain it.
The flames appeared to die down by Saturday afternoon, but winds were forecast to strengthen, meaning there was still a high threat they would flare again.
“Under no circumstances can we be complacent,” Deputy Civil Protection Minister Nikos Hardalias said during an emergency briefing. “We are fighting a very big battle.”
Wildfires have erupted in many parts of the country amid Greece’s worst heatwave in more than 30 years, tearing through swathes of forestland, destroying homes and businesses and killing animals.
On Friday night, strong winds pushed the fire into the town of Thrakomakedones north of Athens, where it burned homes. Residents had been ordered to evacuate and there were no immediate reports of casualties.
The blaze left behind burnt and blackened houses and cars among scorched pine trees. A cloud of smoke hovered over the capital.
“(It’s) really bad,” said Thanasis Kaloudis, a resident of Thrakomakedones. “All of Greece has burned.”
More than 400 wildfires broke out across Greece in the last 24 hours, with the biggest fronts still burning in Evia and areas in the Peloponnese including Ancient Olympia, the site of the first Olympic Games.
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis called it a “nightmarish summer”, adding the government’s priority “has been, first and foremost, to protect human lives”.